According to the results of a survey released in September, more than half of men aren’t comfortable talking about health issues related to their partner’s vagina. In other words: Most men are fine spending some quality time there—they just can’t talk about it if something seems off.
In an online survey that came out in June, The Eve Appeal, a gynecological cancer research charity in the United Kingdom, asked 2,000 participants how comfortable they were talking about gynecological health and whether they could identify the parts of the female anatomy on a diagram.
Only 44% of men said they’d feel comfortable talking about their female partner’s vaginal health. Among those who said they felt weird about it, answers ranged from lack of confidence to fear that she’d take it as criticism. What’s alarming, however, is that when asked how they feel about gynecological health issues, 17% of the total sample of men chose the response, “I know nothing about gynecological health issues and don’t feel that I need to know, as it is a female issue.”
Informing these egregious findings is the simple fact that men don’t seem to know enough about women’s bodies. And considering the UK just recently began revamping their sexual health education (not to mention the abysmal state of sex ed in the United States), that’s no surprise. According to the survey’s results, 50% of men were unable to correctly identify the vagina on a diagram (yes FIFTY PERCENT!!!). Only 17% said they really understood how their partner’s vagina works, while nearly two-thirds weren’t able to identify the vulva.
And, if all there weren’t upsetting enough, only 9% of men in the survey said they could recognize their partner’s vagina in a line-up.
In a statement, Athena Lamnisos, The Eve Appeal’s chief executive, said their survey results reveal how “shockingly low” awareness is on issues relating to gynecological health. “For too many men, women’s bodies are still a taboo subject, shrouded in mystery.”
There are five main types of gynecologic cancers—cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar—and the only one that can be screened for (via a Pap smear) is cervical. That means women have to really pay attention to their bodies and look for warning signs—and who better to help do that than the partners who have a unique vantage point to do so? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 95,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer each year; more than a third of those women will die.
“We know from the many calls that we receive at The Eve Appeal from men, that they can play a vital role in identifying the symptoms of gynecological cancer, prompting their partners to visit the GP,” Lamnisos said. “Early diagnosis really is key and can save lives. This is not about having better sex. It's about men helping women to look after their health. Gynae awareness and taboo busting are all of our responsibility, men and women alike.”